The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has apparently decided to mark the end of 2014 by dramatically changing its own precedent regarding franchised businesses. On Friday, the Board announced that it has issued 13 complaints involving 78 labor practice charges against McDonald’s.
It was a week with highs and lows in the regulatory world: an ozone proposal that could impose $15 billion in costs and a rule relieving $1.7 billion in burdens on truckers. Annualized costs were $13.9 billion, compared to $38.6 billion in benefits; paperwork declined by 45.2 million hours.
Bloomberg reports that European officials are anxious to wrap up the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations as rapidly as possible due to their concerns that the 2016 presidential elections could complicate negotiations.
The Federal Reserve Board has kept overnight interest rates near zero since December 2008 and conducted a large-scale campaign of quantitative easing. The latter has ended — although the issue of reducing its massive portfolio of Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities remains — and the remaining task is to begin to “normalize” monetary policy; i.e. raise interest rates. The exit from extraordinary policy has always been expected to be a difficult matter and yesterday’s Fed announcement is illustrative of the difficulties.
As the President’s “Year of Action” in 2014 quickly turns into another year of action in 2015, let’s reflect on what executive action meant for regulation this year. Regulators managed to publish at least $174 billion in costs, with still a few more days left to regulate. The largest proposal is now freshly dry in the Federal Register, a $15 billion proposal regulating ozone, with standards so tough that many national parks might fail to comply. There are dozens of regulations worthy of inclusion, but below is a partial list of the best and the worst of federal regulation in 2014.
In terms of fiscal policy, 2014 was not a banner year. Very few positive steps were taken to fundamentally improve the nation’s budget and tax challenges, though unlike some recent years, there was little new policy to further harm the nation’s economic health, such as an inefficient stimulus, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or a new slate of tax increases. Despite the lack of major activity, some progress was made in some areas, and some ground was lost in others. Hopefully, with the benefit of hindsight, 2014 will be seen as a year when some important groundwork was laid on good fiscal policy, while 2014’s missteps get obscured by time.
The recent slowdown in the growth rate of national health care spending has been a bit of good news, with only the danger that the slowdown will be reversed (as has happened in the past). Many have tried to attribute the slowdown to Obamacare's delivery system reforms, a claim nicely dissected by Jim Capretta. More likely, the slowdown in part reflects the diffusion of stronger incentives like copays, deductibles, and — in particular — Health Savings Accounts (HSAs).
Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) are a form of consumer-directed health approach aimed at encouraging patients to make better informed choices about their health care needs by pairing high deductible health plans (HDHP) with tax-exempt savings accounts.
The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program is in need of immediate reform. The federal trust fund responsible for funding the program is projected to become insolvent in 2016, and risks immediate benefit cuts to 11.4 million disabled Americans. Potential reforms range from accounting changes (“gimmicks”), to throwing money at the problem (tax increases), to real reforms that control spending.
In March of 2014, the American Action Forum (AAF) found that the administration had still failed to approve paperwork requirements for the individual mandate required by the Affordable Care Act and a host of other significant regulations. It now appears that the White House recently rejected IRS’s individual mandate paperwork and another notable requirement, the Net Investment Income Tax.